Tag Archive - social media

Wine research through a distorted lens

Last week, an organisation called Wine Intelligence put out a press release concerning the apparent lack of trust consumers had in wine bloggers. I can only imagine it was intended to bait bloggers and commentators into some sort of argument to create headlines.

Ryan Opaz and I talked about it and found there were simply too many questions raised not to comment on it. We’re not sure how else to explain some of the conclusions from an organisation that is trying to sell a research report “worth” £1,300.

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Let me start with the headline:

Independent bloggers are one of the least trusted wine information sources in the UK, USA and France, according to research published today, despite the growing importance of the Internet as a source of information about wine.

A headline worthy of tabloid newspapers, or even untrustworthy “independent bloggers”. Hardly the sort of interpretation that would make me trust an organisation that wants to sell me their analysis of the state of the wine “internet and social media”.

Who are these “independent bloggers”?

There is no explanation. Does it include blogs written by the same merchants that the “regular wine drinkers” apparently trust so much? What about the blogs published unofficially by their staff? What about the many blogs published by wine magazines, journalists, importers, wineries, and even research organisations? What about blogging wine personalities like Jancis Robinson, Tim Atkin, Alder Yarrow, Dr. Vino and others? No?

I’d love to see the definition, and the carefully vetted segmentation applied to the 1000+ worldwide wine blogs covered by this statement.

Maybe it is just intended to capture all those individuals who don’t happen to work in the wine business, have not gone through standardised wine trade education schemes, and happen to be writing about wine for their own entertainment and education? The folks who have no “borrowed’ trust and must establish themselves individually. In which case they seem to be doing pretty well to be considered at all and we should salute them!

If that is how they define bloggers then they must realize that these blogs are word-of-mouth amplified by technology platforms, and as such they are trusted by certain very important people – their friends.

What do you mean by “least trusted”?

According to the research, focusing on the UK for now;

1 in 5 regular wine drinkers in the UK trust what independent bloggers say about a wine, compared with the 50%+ who trust what they hear over the counter in a wine merchant.

AND

… just under half the wine drinking populations in [the UK and France use] the Internet for wine information and 16% using social media.

Let’s examine this.

If 16% of all regular wine drinkers “use social media,” they presumably mean that they are on Facebook, Twitter and (whisper it) read blogs. Let’s make the outrageous assumption that you can only trust, or not trust, something you have actually “used” – otherwise the view is not an informed one. The report is supposed to be about the sources of wine information, not the public perception of blogging as this would apply equally to anyone involved in it, not just the poor old “independent” ones.

I’d venture that the numerical similarity of “16%” and “1 in 5″ means that bloggers might actually be trusted by the VAST majority of those who have bothered to check them out.

In fact, even the headline 20% figure means that a great many wine consumers DO have some trust in bloggers, and if you were to look at particular segments of the population who are heavy social media users, you might even find that they are a MAJOR source of trust. Why be negative about something so new and still developing?

Isn’t it actually more shocking that consumers think that 50% of wine shops are lying to our FACES? Bloggers are publishing stuff for lots of strangers to read/watch/hear that they may never meet. These merchants on the other hand are on the other side of the counter, and half of what they say is either wrong or are lies! Apparently.

Market differences

In the USA, websites run by wine shops, newspapers and smaller wine producers are the most used online sources, while supermarket websites rank below Facebook as a source of wine information. The UK tells a different story with supermarket websites proving the most popular online source, whilst in France the brand or producer websites are the most important destinations for consumers seeking knowledge

Does this shock anyone? In the US the vast majority of wine is sold by merchants and wineries, virtually none in supermarkets. The UK market is reversed. The only shock would be that people didn’t trust the people selling them the wine – oh, wait, we did discover that above, but we prefer to bash bloggers.

We considered ignoring the release, but one or two industry news sources decided to pick up on the story and as these things can easily become “fact” (interestingly a criticism usually aimed at bloggers), we felt it might be worth pointing out some of the flaws in the argument for the record.

I’m only able to base my response to the press release, there’s no way I am paying £1,300 for a research report (especially one that promotes itself with inflammatory headlines), so I suspect that SOME of these points may be addressed in the detail. If so, I look forward to hearing from anyone who has read it, … if they bother reading any wine blogs.

Oh! One final irony …

This Wine Intelligence press release, and other reports, were published on a WordPress blog platform! If  the market doesn’t trust bloggers, by extension should we not be trusting this report?

:)

Robert McIntosh and Ryan Opaz

UPDATE: 07 Feb 2011:

Thank you to everyone for your comments, discussion points and feedback, we really appreciate it. Ultimately, the argument is not about research or how to write a press release, it is about perception of social media opportunities. I feel strongly that while other industries are adapting to take advantage of new ways of reaching customers, the wine trade will miss out if they don’t take it more seriously.

Separately, you might like to check out some of the articles that came out since we posted this, including a riposte by Wine Intelligence and some comments from a US perspective including some good research by @winewonkette

Wine Intelligence: Bloggers Bite Back
Vinography: Why trust a wine blogger
Another Wine Blog: Wine Intelligence admits Bias, Ulterior Motives in “Wine Blogger Distrust” Release

There will also be something in the printed edition (and hopefully online) of Harpers this week (10 Feb 2011) as I was asked for a small contribution to the debate.

Related articles

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Shock! Wine blog helps to sell wine

What is a “social media sale”? The answer is simple. A bottle, or more, of wine purchased where a post on a social media platform significantly influenced that behaviour. Measuring how much of this happens is another thing altogether.

Did this wine sell because of Social Media? YES! (see below)

Would a survey on “Does Social Media affect your wine buying habits?” have picked it up? I HIGHLY doubt it.

This is why I find critics of the potential of new channels to promote and help sell wine frustrating (as discussed on Rebecca Gibb’s interesting post here).

I happen to like wine (you may know that). I happen to enjoy Spanish wines (you may know that too). I like to explore the subject, and read others’ suggestions. I also respect certain writers more than others, so when they recommend something, I listen.

All these things came together when Jamie Goode recommended the “thrillingly good mencia” called El Cayado on his blog, so I set out to try and taste it.

Unfortunately for me, Oddbins is a pale imitation of its former self*. There are no shops in my part of London, and when I did make a trek to find an open shop, neither of the shops I found had even heard of it, never mind stocked it. I was out of luck. I gave up. One LOST “social media sale”.

Then a few weeks later I was on my way to a friend’s house for a BBQ and forgot to bring a bottle (it happens to the best of us). I knew there was an Oddbins around the corner so I popped in and asked the staff if they had “that new Mencia on their list?”.

“No, sorry sir” came the answer. Then I turned around and I happened to see a whole shelf of these wines. Oh dear! Almost ANOTHER lost “social media sale”.

I did pick up a bottle and gave it as a gift to my friends, along with the disclaimer that I had not tried it myself, but that it came highly recommended by someone I trust. Finally, 1 GAINED “social media sale”.

1 week later I received an email from my friend saying;

Hope you don’t mind me asking but over the weekend we opened the red wine you very kindly gave us the other week – and I have to say it was amazing. Hit all the right notes. … (we) both loved this one, wondered … where I could get a case from?”

BINGO! [Robert does a little "social media wine sales rock!" dance]

Now, if you ask my friend … “Do you use the internet to source wines?”, guess what her answer will be? No!

You tell me, can you imagine any other ways that blogs, twitter, facebook et al might also influence people directly or indirectly to buy wine? Of course you can.

Saying that it is hard to measure what effect blogs and twitter have on wine sales is one thing, saying that they don’t influence behaviour because you can’t measure it is another.

Have you got any stories of how you, or your friends, have bought (or sold) wine as a direct result of online content? Do let me know so we can help to correct this perception.

* This is true of the stock in the shops, the motivation of most of the staff I have met, and … what the hell is going on with their website? Note, for example, that this MENCIA wine is categorised as 100% Monastrell.

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Give them Access, They Will Talk

Last week, the London International Wine Fair (#LIWF) saw the arrival of a new breed of exhibitor. This one was called “The Access Zone”.

The Access Zone was a combination of Press Office, Lecture Theatre, Consultancy Office, Networking Zone, Business Centre, Free Wi-Fi Spot and Sales Platform.

Instead of a stand being directed by a single company or brand, or acting as a neutral information or service point, The Access Zone was a place where ideas were exchanged, wines tasted and business contacts made. In many ways it was an exhibition within an exhibition. You can read some of the results here (thanks to @gabriellaopaz)

The organisers of the LIWF invited Ryan & Gabriella Opaz of Catavino.net, and my partners in The European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC), to help put together a site dedicated to Social Media in the wine business as part of the main event. This ‘hub’ was then home to all sorts of individuals and companies that wanted to explore the possibilities of social media for promoting wine, including this site as one of the main sponsors.

The users determined the content

What made this stand different was that all sorts of people in the trade were invited to give talks relating to social media tools and strategies. There were interactive talks on using facebook for wineries, wine fault seminars, promoting films, wine blending, personal branding (my own contribution), the launch of the EWBC 2010 in Austria, and more. The USERS determined the content, then stayed there to help others. It was about bringing our online social networks to life, and as such it was important to have the right people at the centre who could motivate and attract an interesting group of friends.

What did we discover? Well, in a show affected by the economic downturn and volcanic ash related travel woes, it was good to have a positive message to discuss. This was especially true online, but also in the trade press. The wine business is very interested in the potential of social media, but still uncertain as to how to achieve this. Having people there, not just us ‘consultants’, but practitioners, brands with experience and brands who invest in social marketing, they were able to get a better overall picture.

The stand was always busy, with a variety of bigger and smaller exhibitors coming to attend talks or meet someone on the stand, including generic wine bodies, wine journalists and winemakers. The stand also hosted Naked Winesspectacular selection process where their ‘angels’ selected a wine (video) to import which then sold out in less than 24 hours! (more videos here)

The Access Zone is not necessarily a model for every future exhibition. In reality, embracing social media is something ALL exhibitors should do, but while adoption is still very low and exhibitors and visitors are interested in learning more in a non-commercial atmosphere, the Access Zone model is probably one that more exhibitions around the world should emulate. I suspect that many other wine events will now look to have such a space, and will invite key players from around the globe to fill it.

Did you come along? What did you think? Worth repeating? Was there other content you would have liked to see?

Well done James!

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MIA

my formerly cluttered desk
Image by evelynishere via Flickr

I’m increasingly aware that wine, a job, multiple social media channels, regular wine trade events PLUS events spawned by the creative well of my social media friends, as well as a real commitment to building a community around wine online, … plus a young family, … are not compatible with writing this blog regularly. At least not for me.

I’m sorry for those who feel I am not keeping up with this blog (I’ve had a few comments)

I do have a number of articles on the go (the draft folder is bulging) and SO many things I’d love to talk about, I just need an extra pair of hands, a few extra hours in the day, … and, increasingly, some help with the various media channels and daily tasks.

Of course, I’m HEAVILY involved in all sorts of social media every day so you can still hear my ramblings and make any comments you wish, but I thought I had better post SOMETHING to say that it is all ticking along. Honest!

:)

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The future of wine writing

Blogs and the future of wine writing

Blogs and the future of wine writing

I want to get a post up about my experiences of the Wine Future conference, but before I do that, I want to address something that has bothered me since the final session.

In that final session, Jancis Robinson said, in answer to a question about the future influence of blogs:

“… (there is a) huge generation of people … who are dying to communicate about wine and are very frustrated that dinosaurs like me, and my colleagues who write columns in the National Press, in Britain anyway, refuse to move out of our ‘slots’ and make room for them, so this is a natural place for a new wave of wine enthusiasm to communicate itself.” – Jancis Robinson, Wine Future 2009 (see mins 3:09 – 3:38 on the Vinus.tv video)

Someone else said pretty much the same thing to me at the EWBC.

I’d like to dispel that myth.

The vast majority of wine bloggers are not writing blogs because they are waiting, biding their time until they are “called” to take on the mantle of Wine Writer at the FT, Guardian, Sunday Times, etc.

There is a generation of wine lovers who are using the power of social media, through blogs, twitter, facebook, youtube, etc. to communicate their love of wine and their personal take on it. Some content is definitely better than others, and a very small percentage may be doing this with the goal of taking their place in the Circle of Wine Writers (as it exists today), but that is not what frustrates most of us.

I would argue that the frustration comes from the fact that we realise that there are lots of wine stories out there, whether from a consumer, producer or trade point of view, that the traditional media (mainly in printed formats) is incapable, or unwilling, to share. Instead of helping the wine industry, those respected, established writers who continue to make ‘old media’ their main/key/only platform, ensure that wineries and brands who might get involved with more creative, and arguably more effective, channels, are instead still wasting their money and effort on dead-end advertising.

Jancis, for the record, no-one I know thinks you are a dinosaur – quite the contrary! You are showing how it is possible for a wine writer to use the internet to VASTLY increase the number of wines and wineries you cover, whilst also building a business and a brand you can benefit from financially. We’d be ecstatic if more of your colleagues did the same, increasing the quality of online content, and giving consumers a greater chance to learn to love wine and wine culture.

We don’t want your job, we want you to want OUR jobs!

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